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10 young hurlers who left their mark on the 2015 senior hurling championship

These rising young stars are some of the finest players in the game.

1. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Yes, we know that Gleeson made his senior championship debut last year but he took his game to another level in 2015.

The Mount Sion colossus battled through the pain barrier earlier in the year with a hamstring injury, featuring in Waterford IT’s Fitzgibbon Cup final loss to University of Limerick.

Gleeson put that third-level setback behind him to produce a string of consistent performances for Waterford on their way to Allianz League success and a Munster final appearance.

At Croke Park in August, Gleeson showed that he was unfazed by the prospect of facing champions Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final, acquitting himself well at GAA HQ.

The beauty of having Gleeson at his disposal for boss Derek McGrath is the player’s versatility in a number of positions.

2. Cathal Mannion (Galway)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The season didn’t finish as Mannion would have liked as we was blotted out of Sunday’s All-Ireland final by the meanest defence in the business.

But that shouldn’t overshadow his fine contribution to the 2015 campaign, when Mannion emerged as a real star along with brother Pádraig.

Mannion finished with a championship haul of 3-20 from seven outings and the undoubted highlight was that devastating hat-trick of goals against Dublin in the Leinster championship replay.

Mannion hit seven points from play in Galway’s rampant victory over Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final and followed that up with five more in the game of the year against Tipperary.

3. Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

One of the most talked about young players in the game due to the role he played for Waterford this summer.

De Búrca manned the sweeper position for the Déise and played it expertly as Derek McGrath’s charges enjoyed a productive campaign.

Waterford leaked just three goals in the championship and De Búrca was one of the main reasons why, providing real protection to his full-back line.

Also more than capable of operating in a conventional centre-back position, De Búrca played there for Dungarvan Colleges in 2013 when they won the Croke Cup.

4. Shane Bennett (Waterford)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sat his Leaving Certificate this summer and on the day he finished up, Bennett claimed the man-of-the-match award against Cork in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling clash between the counties.

The highlight of Bennett’s year at senior level was that stunning goal he whipped home against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

Bennett also made a useful contribution off the bench against Cork in the Munster senior championship, coming on to score two second half points.

A brother of fellow Déise panellist Stephen, Shane will look to nail down a regular place in the starting line-up next year.

5. Jason Flynn (Galway)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Popped up with arguably the score of the year in Sunday’s All-Ireland final, producing a sublime piece of skill to outfox Cillian Buckley before landing a sensational first half point.

It wasn’t the first time we’d seen Flynn do something like that in the championship, as this overhead flick freed Aidan Harte for a score against Dublin in the Leinster replay:

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

Flynn scored a goal after coming off the bench against Kilkenny in the Leinster final but reserved arguably his best performance of the year for the All-Ireland semi-final win over Tipperary.

The Tommy Larkins man collected 0-5, including three points from play, as Galway made it through to the final.

6. Ronan Maher (Tipperary)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Pitched in at the deep end for a championship debut against Galway in 2014, Maher will have learned greatly from his first full season in the Tipperary senior shirt.

Younger brother of Pádraic, Ronan was handed an extended run in the team this summer and the siblings formed two-thirds of the Premier County’s half-back line, alongside Kieran Bergin.

Maher is a successful graduate from the 2012 All-Ireland minor winning team who also featured for the U21s this year.

He’s a two-time county SHC medallist with Thurles Sarsfields and also won a Munster club title in 2012.

7. Colin Dunford (Waterford)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Waterford’s emerging young guns provide us with another standout performer in Colin Dunford.

Dunford bagged two goals against Wexford in last year’s All-Ireland senior qualifier and when he made his debut against Cork in 2014, he was the first player from the Colligan Emmets club to play senior championship hurling for the county since the 1990s.

Jet-heeled Dunford has left his mark on the 2015 season, starring in the Allianz League final victory over Cork and the repeat Munster championship win against the Rebels five weeks later.

Operating in a roving commission for Waterford around the middle third, Dunford provided massive drive and energy levels throughout the season.

8. Conor Whelan (Galway)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Brought in from the intermediate grade for a senior debut against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Whelan justified boss Anthony Cunningham’s faith in him with a fine display, scoring 1-2 from play against the Rebels.

Whelan added another two points from play in the semi-final victory over Tipperary and he was one of Galway’s better players against Kilkenny on Sunday.

The 18-year-old Kinvara player collected two points in the biggest game of the year and never stopped trying even when the tide had turned against the Tribesmen.

Whelan could have done better with that second half goal chance but at such a young age, he will have taken plenty of valuable experience from All-Ireland final Sunday.

9. Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The oldest player on our list, Buckley turned 23 in July but hurled this summer like he’s been around for a decade in the black and amber of Kilkenny.

His form was so good that until TJ Reid cemented the award on Sunday, Dicksboro clubman Buckley was an outside bet for Hurler of the Year.

Kilkenny’s 2010 All-Ireland minor winning captain made his senior debut in 2012 and has already amassed a stunning array of honours in just 20 championship appearances at the top level.

Now firmly established in the left-half-back position, Buckley is a born leader and looks set to enjoy many more productive seasons for the Noresiders.

10. Cian Lynch (Limerick)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Scored three points on his championship debut against Clare and his swashbuckling display marked him out as an instant superstar.

Lynch will be the first to admit that he found the going tough for the remainder of the summer but he could still finish the season as an All-Ireland senior medallist, as Limerick prepare for next Saturday’s U21 decider against Wexford at Semple Stadium.

The Patrickswell dynamo has begun his senior intercounty career in the forward line but in time, he could revert to a deeper role just like his famous uncle Ciarán Carey.

Lynch was always destined for big things after a successful underage career but will be hoping for a more consistent senior championship summer in 2016.

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